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“This President Should Be Able To Do Absolutely Nothing”: In Dramatic Pointless Gesture, Boehner To Sue Obama

Pretty much since the moment Barack Obama finished speaking the oath of office in January 2009, Republicans have been charging that he was abusing his power, exceeding his authority and acting like a tyrant. You might remember that for a time in those early days, conservatives (led by Glenn Beck) were obsessed with the idea that Obama had appointed a group of “czars” who were wielding unaccountable power to implement all sorts of nefarious schemes. They were unable to say how a “czar” differed from “a person who works in the White House,” and that particular iteration of their outrage faded, but the underlying suspicion only grew. In the years since, the list of alleged usurpations of authority has grown daily, the charge that Obama is “lawless” becoming a constant.

At its root is the idea that Barack Obama’s presidency is inherently illegitimate, and whatever he does in that office must be illegal, or nearly so. This often translates into complaints about process, so that even when they lose, Republicans charge that the game was rigged. For instance, conservatives have said thousands of times that the Affordable Care Act, despite being probably the most exhaustively debated piece of legislation in decades, was “rammed through” Congress before anybody realized what was happening. Actions that all presidents undertake, like making recess appointments, signing executive orders, or simply having agencies write regulations, become yet more evidence of Obama’s horrific authoritarian rule.

It’s safe to say that many if not most Republicans would be eager to impeach Obama were such a move not a guaranteed political disaster for them. So John Boehner has decided to pursue a kind of impeachment-lite, announcing that the House of Representatives will be suing the president for abusing his power. “The Constitution makes it clear that the president’s job is to faithfully execute the law,” he said. “In my view, the president has not faithfully executed the law.” It’s impossible to tell at this point whether the suit has any merit, because Boehner didn’t actually cite any specific transgressions the suit will allege.

But my guess is that the suit will throw in every process complaint the Republicans have had over the last five years, because it’s mostly about Boehner’s right flank, both in Congress and in the Republican electorate. Even if the suit gets thrown out of court, Boehner will still be able to say to the eternally angry members to his right, “Hey, I’m the guy who sued Obama! I hate him as much as you do!”

It’s irresistible to charge Republicans with hypocrisy, especially given the fact that they were unconcerned when the Bush administration pushed so vigorously at the limits of presidential power. Bush and his staff regularly ignored laws they preferred not to follow, often with the thinnest of justifications, whether it was claiming executive privilege to ignore congressional subpoenas or issuing 1,200 signing statements declaring the president’s intention to disregard certain parts of duly passed laws. (They pushed the limits of vice presidential power, too—Dick Cheney famously argued that since the vice president is also president of the Senate, he was a member of both the executive and legislative branches, yet actually a member of neither and thus not subject to either’s legal constraints. Seriously, he actually believed that.)

Needless to say, at the time Republicans were perfectly fine with these moves, because when the Bush administration was doing these things, it was in support of policies they favored. And that’s how it goes: Process complaints are almost always a cover for substantive disagreement. A backroom deal made to pass a piece of legislation you agree with is just how the sausage gets made; a deal made for a piece of legislation you disagree with is evidence of deep corruption. A filibuster of a bill you oppose is a principled use of established procedures; a filibuster of a bill you favor is cynical obstructionism. And it’s a little rich to hear congressional Republicans wail that Obama has subverted their will, when their will is that this president should be able to do absolutely nothing.

To be clear, I’m not saying that it’s impossible that there could be any merit to whatever claims Boehner and his colleagues will make. There may have been situations in which Obama pushed presidential prerogatives beyond what the law and the Constitution allow, which the courts will decide. But this question comes up with every president, both because they all want to pursue their goals and try to find every means at their disposal to do so, and because the limits of that power are somewhat vague and complex. As it happens, in numeric terms, Obama has been far more restrained than his predecessor; he has issued fewer executive orders than other recent presidents, and has also used signing statements only occasionally (although recently he cited one of his signing statements as justification for failing to notify Congress 30 days before the release of Taliban prisoners in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl).

The numbers aren’t really the point, though; the question is whether Obama actually ever exceeded his authority. This lawsuit may help us understand whether that occurred, and the result might set a useful precedent to guide future presidents. But I doubt it. More likely, it’ll be an intensely partisan document whose purpose is to shake a fist at the president Republicans so despise, and it’ll get tossed out of court and thrown in the dustbin where it belongs, one more futile, angry gesture from an opposition that has lost the ability to offer anything else.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, June 26, 2014

June 26, 2014 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Iraq Is Beyond Cheney’s Comprehension”: Democracy Is Not Something That Can Be Imported

Much has been said of former Vice President Dick Cheney’s Wall Street Journal op-ed where he criticized President Barack Obama’s handling of Iraq. Cheney’s contribution to the discourse in Iraq is as meaningful as someone holding an emergency meeting on the Titanic to ascertain the whereabouts of the missing bucket.

I doubt there are many levelheaded individuals who would take seriously anything Cheney offers about Iraq, given his dubious contribution to what can only be considered as an unmitigated disaster.

Included in Cheney’s recent screed was the now infamous quote: “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”

Short of Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, what were the artisans of the Iraq War correct about? Weapons of mass destruction, victory would be a “slam dunk,” along with “mission accomplished” are among of the misguided quotes that placed American lives and treasure on a fool’s errand.

Appearing on Meet the Press, Republican Senator Rand Paul countered Cheney’s charges:

I don’t blame President Obama. Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution. But I do blame the Iraq War on the chaos that is in the Middle East. I also blame those who are for the Iraq War for emboldening Iran. These are the same people now who are petrified of what Iran may become, and I understand some of their worry.

While Paul appears to have come to the aid of the president, it was also a salvo fired toward former Secretary of State, and possible 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. An area where Clinton could be vulnerable remains the clumsy manner that she explains her vote as senator in support of the Iraq War.

But Clinton’s inability to explain her participation in Iraq is the least of America’s problems. What should America do as a growing number of Iraqi military forces are withdrawing in the wake of the consolidation of power by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is now reportedly controlling much of Iraq’s western border?

The latest developments in Iraq are the most glaring evidence to date how sophomoric the 2003 preemptive invasion has proven to be. Democracy is not something that can be imported. Nor is it displaying a purple finger after casting a vote.

Voting does not equate to democracy. Stalin had elections, as did the South during Jim Crow segregation.

Some even attempted to argue that the Arab Spring was the unintended consequence that vindicated former President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq.

What plagues Iraq and ostensibly the Middle East is most likely beyond America’s sphere of influence.

Columnist Tom Friedman has argued the Middle East needs someone that can appeal to the moral consciousness of the region, a Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi, or Martin Luther King-like figure.

While the aforementioned fought against oppression in their homelands, they did so in countries that possessed enough democratic infrastructure so that their marvelous abilities and influence could ultimately rise to the top.

Shadi Hamid, author of Temptations of Power, argues that before any democratic ideals can take hold authentically, the Middle East must go through its own form of Enlightenment period. But such efforts require time.

The Age of Enlightenment in the West began more than 200 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed. Moreover, the Revolutionary War was fought while many Americans remained loyal to the British.

How can there be any type of stabilization in the Middle East that is not rooted in its own people? And how can the people undertake that revolutionary mission until there is an emphasis placed on reason and the individual that untangles the unhealthy interdependence between religion and politics?

These were probably questions that should have been posed before the preemptive invasion in 2003. But alas, everyone’s IQ is higher ex post facto — certain neocons notwithstanding.

 

By: Byron Williams, The Huffington Post Blog, June 24, 2014

 

 

 

June 26, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Iraq, Iraq War | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Crashing The White Primary”: Not An Argument Consistent With Broadening The Appeal Of The GOP

Right before the votes started rolling in last night, elements of Team McDaniel started complaining of “illegal Dem votes to steal the election.” As it became obvious that turnout in heavily African-American areas was up sharply from June 3, with Thad Cochran the overwhelming beneficiary, the cry of “theft” grew louder, to the point that McDaniel himself refused to concede after all the experts had declared the incumbent the winner.

Cochran’s win wasn’t all about “crossover” voting; he seems to have beefed up both turnout and his percentage of the vote in Gulf Coast counties where he campaigned personally, reminding voters of the defense contracts he had brought to the area.

It also appears from McDaniel’s enhanced votes in the pineywoods sections of the state that there may have been a backlash to Cochran’s appeals to African-Americans.

In any event, the kvetching from the Right last night sounded an awful lot like southern seggies during the civil rights era complaning about “The Bloc Vote” (though there really never was a Bloc Vote in Mississippi at that time because black people simply weren’t allowed to vote). The unfocused talk of a legal challenge to the outcome either is or isn’t based on documented examples of (a) voting by people who already participated in the Democratic Primary on June 3, which contradicts a lot of anecdotal evidence about people being challenged and excluded on those grounds, or (b) some sort of illegal inducement to vote. If it isn’t, then McDaniel supporters are really going to embarrass themselves and Republicans everywhere if they contest an election on the basis of some ridiculous and patently unconstitutional “intent to support the party in November” law, or some general principle that “crossover” voting is inherently illegitimate.

For all the talk last night of “liberal Democrats” being allowed to determine a Republican primary, there’s actually no way to know the partisan or ideological identity of voters in a state with no party registration (as David Nir pointedly asked this morning, why hasn’t Chris McDaniel sponsored a bill to change that in his years in the state legislature?). So what these birds are really complaining about is black participation in a “white primary.” This is certainly not an argument consistent with broadening the appeal of the GOP or the conservative movement.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 25, 2014

June 26, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Mississippi, Tea Party | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sane Is Better Than Insane”: Thad Cochran Wins One For Sanity Over Tea Partier Chris McDaniel

I know, I know. Fellow liberals, you were rooting for Chris McDaniel to beat Thad Cochran on Tuesday night in Mississippi. I understand. Just a few days ago, I was, too. Put more crazy in the national GOP. Make them look that much more embarrassing. Bring one more nut to Washington who talks about hot Latino babes and all the rest of it.

Besides which, if McDaniel had won, the Democrat, Travis Childers, would have had a shot. Childers would scarcely qualify as a Democrat in about 17 or 18 states, but the Senate is the Senate, full of weird senators, for better or worse. Every state gets two. Why not have one be a guy who’ll vote (we presume, shakily) to make Harry Reid the majority leader of the Senate?

Nah. First of all, the idea that Childers ever had any kind of chance of winning a Senate seat in Mississippi was a pipe dream. The voters of Mississippi aren’t going to send a Democratic senator to Washington, D.C., in the era of Barack Obama. I don’t care what the circumstances are. Remember that old joke about incumbents being safe as long as they weren’t caught with a live boy or a dead girl? During the Obama presidency, a Mississippi Republican could be caught with a dead Bichon Frise, and the only question he’d be asked is why he favored a dog with such a gay-sounding Frenchie name. Childers wasn’t going to beat McDaniel.

As to whether Democrats would prefer to have Cochran or McDaniel in the Senate, this takes us back to the old Marxist dialectic, “The worse, the better.” That is, the worse things get for our enemies, the more extreme and crazy they get, the better things are for us, because the worse things get for them, the more quickly the public will see that the other side has lost its freaking mind.

This was the stratagem of leftists everywhere for a long, long time. Not that I’m making any direct comparisons here—OK?—but this is what the socialists and communists thought in Germany in 1933. The right, they were sure, is going to discredit itself. And they were correct. But it took 12 years and around 9 million or 10 million dead human beings. That’s enough collateral damage to prove the theorists wrong.

No, sorry. Boring as it may seem, be glad that Cochran eked out his win. Be happy that sane won. Here’s a little political truism for you: Sane is better than insane. We don’t need more Ted Cruzes in the Senate. We don’t need more candidates endorsed by Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum. We just. Don’t. Need. Them. We don’t need one more extremist GOP candidate who is going to make those cowardly Republicans in the Senate conclude that they have to live in fear of losing to some certifiable, fact-bending jelly-head of the extreme right. We really don’t.

Cochran will never vote for anything Obama wants. No minimum wage hike, no carbon tax, no nothing. I understand that. But he’ll be in there, assuming he wins and stays alive, until January 2021. That is, through what might be Hillary Clinton’s first term. If the GOP intra-bloodbath happens in 2017 after she’s won, Cochran, who won’t be running again and just won’t give a shit, might actually vote for one or two things Clinton asks for. McDaniel, obviously, would not.

And consider this. The Tea Party people are furious about this outcome. A very prominent Tea Party activist tweeted Tuesday night: “If Cochran wins this #mssen race, the GOP is done. They teamed up with Dems to steal a race. Kiss the base goodbye.”

So there we are. Be for sanity. Be against insanity. The dialectic never worked, even back in the glory days. Chris McDaniel belongs where he belongs—chasing ambulances in Pascagoula, or wherever it is he’s from. And his election would not hasten the Republican apocalypse. If anything, Cochran’s would. More Tea Party losses in races like this are what’s needed.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 25, 2014

June 26, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Mississippi, Tea Party | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Cleaning Up The Supreme Court’s Democracy Mess”: Voting Discrimination Is Far From Ancient History

One year ago this week, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act and took yet another step toward undermining our democracy. Since then, civil rights leaders have been hard at work trying to clean up the Court’s mess.

The Shelby decision was a devastating loss, especially for those who fought to see the original Voting Rights Act enacted. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the sole surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington and a leader of the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, accused the Supreme Court of “stab[bing] the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in its very heart.” Civil rights advocates mourned the naïve assumption that Selma had been relegated to ancient history and that racial discrimination in voting went with it. People For the American Way’s director of African American religious affairs noted on the day of the decision: “Those who sided with the majority clearly have not been paying attention, reading the paper, attending community meetings, living in America.”

Indeed, anyone who has been paying attention knows that voting discrimination is far from ancient history. A new report by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights found nearly 150 documented instances of voting rights violations since 2000, with each case affecting between hundreds and tens of thousands of voters.

Happily, reform is finally underway in the Senate. On Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on legislation to put the VRA back together again. It’s a critically important first step in getting our country’s laws back to where they need to be on voting rights protections. But so far House Republican leadership has refused to move forward. Maybe they think that if they pretend a problem doesn’t exist, they won’t have to fix it.

The push for voting rights protections isn’t the only effort underway to clean up the mess the Supreme Court has made of our democracy. With the 2012 election the most expensive in history, this week the Senate Judiciary Committee is considering a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn cases like Citizens United v. FEC, the infamous 2010 ruling that paved the way for unlimited corporate political spending. Like Shelby, Citizens United was a contentious 5-4 decision with a strong dissent. Also like Shelby, it set our democracy back dramatically. Citizens United let corporate bank accounts overwhelm the voices of everyday Americans. Shelby made it easier for state and local governments to create barriers to voting.

But Americans know that the answer to attacks on our democracy isn’t despair — it’s action. Sixteen states and more than 550 cities and towns have called for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics like the one moving forward in the Senate, and that number is growing rapidly.

National leaders are also speaking out. President Obama has expressed his support for an amendment to overturn Citizen United multiple times since the decision. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens are just a handful of other high-profile amendment supporters. And earlier this month, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not hold back her disdain for the recent democracy-harming decisions coming from the Supreme Court’s majority: “Like the currently leading campaign finance decision, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, I regard Shelby County as an egregiously wrong decision that should not have staying power.”

The Supreme Court has made some very bad calls when it comes to protecting the rights of all Americans to participate meaningfully in our political system. But Justice Ginsburg is right: These wrong-headed decisions shouldn’t have staying power. And if the American people have anything to do with it, they won’t.

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, President, People For the American Way; The Huffington Post Blog, June 25, 2014

June 26, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Supreme Court, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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